BENGALURU: Even as the fashion industry takes a pivot towards greater diversity internationally, Indian cosmetic brands haven’t caught up.
“Fashion is democratic and it should be that way. Everyone has the right to look good and have access to clothes and cosmetics that they would like to put on,” says Piali Das Gupta, a fashion editor.
Tanya Dhar, a fashion blogger agrees, but adds that it is the Indian cosmetic brands that have “not recognised the Indian skin tone”.
Tanya counts on Bobbi Brown for makeup. “I haven’t used an Indian cosmetic brand. Mine is an olive skin tone and they don’t have the colour shades that would work on me,” she says.
While Indian brands fail to understand their customer demography, International brands invest in thorough research before entering an Indian market.
“Marks & Spencer corrected their lines and pricing to meet the Indian market. Brands that did not correct their collection have failed,” says Gajendra Singh Rathore, Centre-director, Phoenix Market City, Bengaluru.
Gajendra informs that international brands usally have a round-table discussion with Indian retailers before introducing their collection. “There have been times where we have refused the brand if they don’t make efforts in designing a collection around Indian requirements. We ask them to make adjustment in their products and if they remain unwilling to adapting, we drop them,” says Gajendra.
Quality and varied colours and shades is what attracts an Indian consumer to International brands, he notes.
“Lipstick by Indian brands are too glossy. I like the matte finish better, but that works best only with International brands,” says Sangeeta Muhory, 25, a senior financial analyst at Ernst Young.
Trust is another reason why consumers prefer foreign brands. “I know an International brand offers better quality. Indian lipsticks don’t last through the day, but the other ones do. I don’t trust an Indian brand on quality. In fact a Maybelline lipstick I bought in US was better than the same one with the same brand in India,” says Srishti Singh, 25, senior operation analyst, First Advantage, a background verification firm.
Indian cosmetics lack in variety and fall back on quality confirms Gajendra observing from past trends and 10 years of association with Indian and international brands.
“If an Indian brand understands our requirement - quality and variation in colours based on Indian skin tone, then I will buy it. Until then I’d rather pay extra to International brands than risk ruining my skin and wear a colour that won’t go,” says Srishti.
Bollywood actor Isha Talwar agrees that there is a need for Indian brands to research their own regional demography and even designers should experiment with traditional wear.
“You go to a mall and there are times that you still don’t find anything that will suit you. We still struggle in finding good plus size fashion. Our designers should also try to blend in desi with global allure. I wear Sreejith because he makes that blend fashionably. He understands his audience well,” says Isha.
Sreejith Jeevan, a Kochi-based designer makes designer wear with modern cuts with a mix of kasavu and embroidery work.
But are there more designers who come up with such blends? “Not many. Conventionally, I am still stuck with Western wear because that is only obvious fashion choice I have. There are designers who blend in Indian quirks, but they are still less. If I wear saree often, I am again stuck to a stereotype and not considered fashionable anymore. This mindset too has to change,” Isha adds.
There is major market research happening when it comes to Indian companies, but these are ususally ecommerce retail brands, notes Piali Das Gupta, a fashion editor.
“But I would never buy cosmetics online. It is like picking a lipstick out of a catalogue. It never matches the look in the catalogue. I would rather go to a store, check if it works for my skin tone and then buy,” says Sangeeta.